When GS Online MLS Forum member Sonny Gartin of Springfield, Mo., posted that a local television news reporter had called and wanted to do an interview with him about his marketing and stored-value card processing business, Reward4ORGS LLC, he garnered many congratulations and probably a little envy from other forum members.
Gartin shared his enthusiasm in his post, stating, "So this morning I get a call from a local news station wanting to do a story on my company and our program. It took a lot of running to set up everything, but it is done. They are interviewing the business owner, a cardholder, and myself. Should be exciting, but I must admit I am a little nervous. Just wanted to share."
Gartin set up Reward4ORGS to help communities through local fundraising. To that end, the company is partnering with local businesses, schools and nonprofit organizations.
Gartin said the beauty of the system is that the program increases sales for local merchants with free local advertising that drives customers to their businesses, while providing support for local causes by giving back 5 percent of every sale to designated schools and charities.
Gartin aligns consumers who want to support local charities or schools with merchants who support the same causes. Here's how it works: a customer signs up for the rewards program through a cause he or she wants to help and receives a rewards card in return.
The card is linked to local merchants who offer support for that cause. When the consumer makes a purchase at a store offering the rewards program, 5 percent of the sale automatically goes to the specified charity or school.
Gartin said the idea for the company came to him one day about four years ago when his wife came home complaining about yet another school fundraiser. "There's got to be a better way," she said. Gartin, who was already working as a merchant level salesperson (MLS) for an ISO, started thinking about how he could marry fundraising, marketing and card processing. The result, two and one-half years later, was the Reward4ORGS and Reward4Schools programs.
Gartin now works with approximately 20 charities and between 50 and 60 schools, and he'll be opening new operations soon in Kansas City, Mo., St. Louis, Mo., and Tulsa, Okla.
"My program is based on community," he said. "We can take this program nationwide. It works anywhere in the nation. For parents who are bombarded with fundraising requests, as a way to help kids, this is an easy way to do this.
"If you tell people they can help their local school or nonprofit by spending at local businesses, they will do it all day long - and they do. ... Parents are going to be buying anyway. If they spend in the community, the school will benefit every time."
The upside for merchants is that this program attracts customers and promotes the business at no cost, Gartin said. The nonprofits and schools do the advertising for merchants by encouraging shopping at stores that accept the rewards card.
The upside for MLSs is this program is sticky because it drives business. "If this works, why would they want to leave?" Gartin asked. "This is a great way to implant yourself in your community because you are tied into the merchants and organizations."
For example, when Joplin, Mo., was devastated by tornadoes in 2011, Reward4ORGS helped set up a reward program called "Shoppin' for Joplin" with reward money going to help with the city's recovery. "These contributions are residual, month after month, every time the card is used," Gartin pointed out.
"The beauty of this thing is that the merchant pays for it after it works - after the customer comes in, after the customer spends money, then the merchant makes the donation."
Gartin added that his company pays referral fees, too. Parents who refer businesses can earn $50 for each referral for a designated school or nonprofit. "We had one school turn in 14 pages of referrals," he said.
Gartin said that in the two days after the report aired, he signed 15 new businesses and that he has since signed up 2,800 new cardholders. He posted in the forum that the phones got busy quickly after the television report aired.
"One line was merchants wanting to find out how to join our program; the other line was consumers wanting to find out how to join our program," he wrote. "It was a win-win for us. The funny thing is the more consumers we get, the more the businesses want to join, and the more businesses we get, the more consumers want to join."
So how do others in the payments industry get on television? "Be creative," Gartin responded. "Find a way to help everybody. That's ultimately why my story was published."
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